Depending on what benefits you’re claiming, you might be able to get 15 hours a week of free childcare during term time if you have a 2-year-old. You can spread this over 2 or 3 days a week.
To qualify for this, you need to be claiming one of these:
- Universal Credit (and not earning more than £15,400 a year)
- Income Support
- Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
- Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
- Child Tax Credit, Working Tax Credit or both (and not earning more than £16,190 a year)
- The Working Tax Credit 4-week run-on (the payment you get when you stop qualifying for Working Tax Credit)
- The Guarantee Credit part of Pension Credit
- Support through part 6 of the Immigration and Asylum Act
Children also qualify if:
- They’re looked after by a local council
- They have a current statement of special education needs (SEN) or an education, health and care (EHC) plan
- They get Disability Living Allowance
- They’ve left care under a special guardianship order, child arrangements order, or adoption order
In parts of Wales, there’s a free childcare scheme called Flying Start.
If you’re working and claiming Universal Credit, you can use a mixture of free childcare and Universal Credit childcare payments. These cover up to 85% of your childcare costs.
There will be changes to the free childcare system over the next few years.
From 1st April 2024
From April, you might be able to get 15 hours a week free childcare if you’re in work and your child is 2 years old.
To qualify, both the following need to apply:
- Your child is 2 years old or will turn 2 years old before 1 April 2024
- You earn at least £8,670 a year and less £100,000 a year.
The 15 hours will start the term after your child turns 2 years old.
- If they have already turned 2 before March 31 2024, the hours will start from 1 April 2024.
- If they turn 2 between 1 April and 31 August 2024, you’ll get the hours from 1 September 2024.
To claim your 15 hours of funded childcare you can apply now on the Childcare choices website (if you are eligible, you can apply now for childcare starting in April).
Apply for 15 hours of funded childcare for your two year old on the Childcare Choices website.
Further changes planned in 2024/ 2025
- From September 2024, all children 9 months and older will be eligible for 15 hours of free childcare a week.
- From September 2025, working parents with children under 5 will be entitled to 30 free hours of childcare a week.
Example for a 2-year-old
Sasha works as a part-time painter and decorator for 16 hours a week and earns £176 each week. Her son Joshua has just turned 2 and goes to a nursery for 25 hours a week.
Because Sasha gets Universal Credit and earns less than £15,400, she can claim for 15 hours of childcare each week during term time. She pays for the other 10 hours a week through the childcare element of Universal Credit and from her wages. Her nursery gives her a bill telling her what’s been paid, what’s free, and how much she still needs to pay.
Sasha uses her Universal Credit online journal to record her childcare costs every month. Her work coach has told her which receipts and documents she needs to show each month during her assessment period. After paying the nursery each month, she gets back 85% of what this costs alongside her Universal Credit payment the next month.